Sunday, May 13, 2007

Later ...

From: Steve Gilford
To: Betty Reid Soskin
Subject: Vivian Jernigan
Date: May 12, 2007 12:13 AM

As always, it was a pleasure talking with you even though I felt guilty at taking up so much of your time.

I thought you might get a kick out of this. I looked up Vivian Jernigan in my notes and found her in an interview with Joe Sender. It was about his first day with Permanente. He went on to become one of the leaders of the medical group, a member of the Executive Committee and the Chief physician at the Oakland Medical Center.

JS: Oh, I've got to tell you another story though. The day we got here was July 1st. When I walked on the ward, there was a woman, a black woman by the name of Vivian Jernigan, whom I will never forget. I walked on the ward and first thing she told me was, "Oh, you're Doctor Sender? You're on call today."

I'm on call today? I know nothing about the organization. I'm brand new here. I'm not going to work. I just can't work. I've got to get my people settled in. I only reported because I was supposed to report on July 1st." And then I started looking at the notes. "Gee, these notes, I'm not too sure, what is all this about?" And she said, "What are you griping about?" she said.

Q: Was Vivian Jernigan the charge nurse?

JS: She was a clerk and I'm sure everybody who's worked at Oakland from the '50's until maybe the '70's knew Vivian. As time went on, I really got to like her a lot. Whenever I came on the floor and would start griping about something, she said, "Jesus and Joseph! What do you want?" (Laughing!) But I really think she was thought of very fondly

Q: So you were supposed to be on call that first day?

JS: When I got my acceptance, it had said, "Please report on July 1st." so we made it our business to get here by July 1st. But I figured I'd get oriented. Everytime I went anywhere else, I got an orientation. It didn't make sense to start right in. I didn't have a chance to study the charts, I didn't know where x-ray was, I didn't know what was going on, I didn't even know where the laboratory was.


in an employee newsletter that came out in 1962 I saw that she was given something called the "Personality Award from the Management Association. The article headline said the award went to "A Blunt Spirit" and she was called "Mrs. B Ward." The actual working of the award said she was "one whose activity over and above any job requirement fosters better relations among employees, members, the community ... confers distinction upon our medical program ...".

Have a fine weekend!


Photo: Vivian Allen at age 18 upon graduation from Xavier High School in New Orleans. At that time she was a charming Cajun/Creole girl from St. James Parish -- but was now ready to join her father in Oakland, California, to continue her education at the University of California, Berkeley where she studied for 3 years. One of her greatest regrets was that she was unable to complete her degree. This was in the Twenties, long before higher education was common to women in general, regardless of race or ethnicity. (I hear you asking, "but is she "black"? You'll need to remember that Vivian lived proudly under the "one drop rule," in force until the 1990 census categories changed and multi-race self-identification was allowed for the first time.)

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